Friday, July 1, 2011

I am Giving Up.

I am tired.  I am frustrated.  I (we) have failed.  I am giving up....... and I am ashamed of it.

I have made a difficult decision.  It goes against a lot of what I believe.  It goes against a lot of what I have been reading and what the big names in educational technology have been saying but I think I have to do it anyways.  With the support of my administration I am getting our internet content filter back.  We will be blocking YouTube and Facebook (as well as other similar sites).

I have failed because we have been unable to teach the students to use our internet responsibly.  When logging into a computer it was very common for students to start by firing up a YouTube video, logging into Facebook, and then finally getting down to their real work.  In the meantime they were not focused on their actual assignment.  It was not just a few bad apples.  It was a large percentage of the students.  I know because I have spent a lot of time using the monitoring software.  Many students would only bring up their work when the teacher was nearby.  I know how easy it is to hide.

Facebook was also becoming a larger social issue.  Students were bullying over it and using it to organize fights.  We were not getting through to them when it came to digital citizenship and their online presence.  Yes I know that the students will still have access to Facebook on their cellphones.  (And for the record our no cellphone policy just sort of petered out - no formal end to it.  That is another story.)

YouTube was primarily a bandwidth issue.  Listening to music online was not a real problem - in fact it cut down on other management problems.  It is a shame to block online video because many of us do use it to teach with.  Myself I have about 70 math videos posted up.  It did not seem to matter how many time I explained our bandwidth problems, how many times I gave warnings, or how many times I suspended accounts.  Students were usually using YouTube for non-educational purposes.  They were using it a lot.

So is it permanent?  I sure hope not.  If I have my way we quit cold turkey and after a little while we start to reintroduce the sites teaching responsibility as we go.

Needless to say I have given up.  I am tired of the daily fight and once again I am ashamed.  What a great way to end the year.


Micheal Hagel said...

Gary I know exactly what you are saying. I am looking at getting a content filter back in Luseland as well. I just don't know what else to do. With going 1-1 next year we have to be so careful with how bandwidth is being used and I can't seem to get through to students how to use the internet responsibly. It is frustrating and it is a failure. I wish I had an answer for both of us, but all I can do is say I understand and hope that we can find a solution next year.

Micheal Hagel said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I am trying to get the content filter back at Luseland as well. Going 1-1 next year we have to be so protective of bandwidth and I just can't seem to explain this to students. I don't know what else to do, I have failed to teach students to use the interent resposiblt. I don't have any answers. I can only say I understand and hope that we do find a solution next year.

Maryna said...

Hello Gary and Michael
We have a anti-smoking ad where they say "You never fail completely. You can always try again". So, you may now have a little interlude without the privileges, but you can always try again with these initiatives. Perhaps only give teachers access to YouTube and not the kids? Or perhaps release only some websites e.g. the platform your teachers use for their blogs? In this way kids can start getting the idea that these tools can/must be educational. I have to agree, Facebook is a huge distraction, but a purely educational blog on another platform could do the trick. Good luck :)

Lee Kolbert said...

Don't beat yourself up and don't let the big voices in the edublogger community shame you into thinking you're a failure. You are doing what we are all doing; trying to figure it out. None of us have it completely, yet. For those who look like they are doing it, keep in mind that they may have some very unique circumstances.

Why not put the filter back but relax it for a small pilot group? Maybe one or two classrooms where you know you can work with the teachers and have some influence on how the classroom is structured. You can have an ongoing dialogue with these teachers to be sure thoughtful lessons are implemented so the students get the experiences they need to fully embrace appropriate digital citizenship. You can also provide some classroom management professional development for these teachers, which may help with the bandwidth issue (kids streaming when they aren't supposed to).

By working with a small pilot group, you have a few teachers who are very interested, have more control over your variables and have a great chance of success. When you then move to a larger implementation phase, you'll have a better idea of what works.

Just some ideas. My 2-cents.

Richard Schwier said...

Gary, I feel your frustration, and I"m sympathetic, but I don't want you to feel like you or the system has failed because the students haven't conformed to the usage policies. To them, it's probably just another set of rules and restrictions, and they have a hard time taking them seriously. After all, they've experienced a lot of them.

Maybe (and I certainly don't have answers) an approach could be to have them decide how the limited bandwidth can be used, and how it can't during school time. But it will always be a difficult policy to enforce. I won't get into all of the reasons why open access might actually be beneficial, especially in the hands of a great teacher. You already know those arguments.

But I think digital citizenship is still important, even if it is ridiculously difficult to teach, because everyone still needs to learn how to act responsibly and safely when they are online. This is an issue that transcends their time in school.

It is difficult to teach, and even more difficult to learn, I suspect. But for those very reasons, it is so important that we don't give up trying.

In the end, teachers are all about creating a more civil, literate, sensitive and educated world. Keep up the good fight. It's worth it, even if there are setbacks.

Whatever your decision has to be around filters, I hope you don't give up on promoting digital citizenship and helping students take responsibility for using technology intelligently.

Skip Ploss said...

I think we need to approach this with a wave. That is, set a start class lets say the class of 2025, and start them in kindergarten. Teach them the appropriate way to log in and use the computer the same way we teach them how to hold a pencil, cut with scissors (do you have time to teach that anymore?) etc. Start Digital Citizenship on K day one and ride the wave forward.

RjWassink said...

All staff and admins need to be vigilant about what's happening if you want to end it. Simply asking them not to abuse these sites won't work, and hoping they'll figure out how to responsibly use them without constant reminders also won't work. The fact that your students aren't engaged in their classes also points a (somewhat small?) finger at the teachers in those classrooms - are they leading instruction in a relevant and exciting way? Are the students listening to them and respecting their wishes? It's not something that happens overnight, but old dogs can always learn new tricks. Gotta remember who's in control of the classroom here - removing a distraction won't stop these abuses from happening with other websites if the enforcement is reactive rather than proactive.

I personally see little need for Facebook in schools. Offer them other backchannels for in-classroom use (such as todaysmeet, Edmodo, Moodle, etc). And as for music on youtube... why? Are they watching the videos or simply minimizing the window and listening to it? Encourage students to set up Pandora so that they still get the tunes and don't need the video. If you really throttle (at the router) the bandwidth for Youtube (especially if you can throttle students and not teachers) they'll quickly get frustrated with the site and will start looking for alternatives. Offer one to them up front, help get it set up, and eventually you could probably completely open Youtube up again with very little traffic increase.

@Michael - you see it as a failure, but how many other teachers are upset about it? As hard as you might try to teach online responsibility you know there's another teacher somewhere in the building who allows the kids to do whatever they want on the internet...

Gary Ball said...

Thanks for the support folks.

For the record I am giving up on a wide open unfiltered internet. I am not giving up on teaching responsible use and digital citizenship. Those still apply on a filtered internet.

Teachers are going to have unfettered access and when they have a lesson that involves YouTube I will be temporarily relaxing the filters.

In talking to the techs I realized that online streaming music also uses a huge amount of bandwidth (not as much as video but still a very noticeable amount). The only viable answer is for the students to bring their own MP3 players.

I just hate when my vision of the way the world should be ends up very different then actual reality.

Bruce Beairsto said...

Perhaps this will cheer you up -

Don said...

Thanks for a thoughtful article. You prompted me to respond on my own blog and you've helped me grow. Here are my thoughts,